Fast Company/ProShotz


Leigh Hopper and Michael Goudie (#969 Mitsubishi Evo 10) celebrate their win in the two-day Targa Hawke’s Bay event last year


An expanded, now three-day, Targa Hawke’s Bay event this month (May 18-20) is set to kick off another big year for the country’s tarmac rally specialists.


2018 looks set, in fact, to be a marquee year for event director Peter Martin and his company, the Ultimate Rally Group. The annual six-day Targa New Zealand tarmac event returns to the South Island in late October while the biennial Silver Fern Rally will be held in the North (Island) a month later.


The success of the first Targa New Zealand event in the South Island in 2014 meant that a return was always on the cards. And with the eight-day Silver Fern gravel event heading to the North Island it meant 2018 was going to be the year.


It also made sense, Martin says, to add a day to what last year was a two-day Hawke’s Bay event; “so our regulars could get their ‘North Island fix’ for the year, our first-timers could get a ‘taste’ of what our events are all about, and we could start what is shaping up to be a  truly ‘mega’ year in style!”


Last year the first Targa Hawke’s Bay two-day event started and finished in Havelock North. This year the extra day sees competitors gather in Taupo on Thursday May 17 for documentation, scrutineering and drivers’ briefing, then a ceremonial start and street parade.


Friday morning then sees the 80-strong field of competition and Targa Tour cars head south towards Waiouru for the morning stages with a lunch stop in Taihape then afternoon crossing of the iconic Gentle Annie road (split into two stages) to Hawke’s Bay and on to Havelock North.


Saturday’s route is similar to last year’s (with three stages north-west of Hastings in the morning and three south of Havelock North in the afternoon) and again incorporates a stand-alone Rally of Hawke’s Bay event-within-and-event orgnaised in conjunction with the local car club.


Sunday, meanwhile, sees competitors head south into the Central Hawkes Bay and Tararua Districts before a ceremonial finish back in Havelock North. 


All-up there are 19 closed road special stages covering a total 459.95 km linked by 730km touring stages


Last year the inaugural two-day Hawke’ Bay Targa evet was won by popular North Auckland driver Leigh Hopper and co-driver Michael Goudie after an event-long battle with fellow Mitsubishi Evo pair Chris West and co-driver Andrew Simms. Third and fourth respectively were the matching Porsche 911 GT3s of five-time Targa NZ winner Tony Quinn and new co-driver Kieran Anstiss, and Martin Dippie and Jona Grant from Dunedin.


After the May Hawke’s Bay event the focus turns to the six-day 2018 Targa New Zealand event, only the second to be held in the South Island in the 24-year history of the event.


This year everyone associated with the event gathers in Invercargill on Monday October 22 (Labour Day) for documentation, scrutineering and drivers’ briefing before the first day of competition in and around Southland on Tuesday October 23.


Wednesday sees the event head north for the first of two overnight stays in Dunedin, while on Friday the field heads to Queenstown for the final two days of competition.


As well as the existing competition and Targa Tour categories this year’s event sees a new one – a Time Trial for owners of Vintage Cars.


‘It’s something I’ve wanted to include in out events for several years now,” says Peter Martin. “We’re doing it in conjunction with the Vintage Car Club of New Zealand and the idea is to give the owners of older cars an opportunity to drive over the same roads as the Targa and Tour cars at a pace which suits them and a format based on time-keeping rather than out-and-out speed.”


A month later Martin and staff and volunteers from the Ultimate Rally Group will be back in the North Island running their second Silver Fern Rally.


An eight-day, biennial gravel event is a true international one with entries from classic rally specialists from all over the world. This year’s event starts in Hamilton on Saturday November 24 and finishes a week later in Rotorua.


Along the way are overnight stops in New Plymouth, Ohakune, Palmerston North, Havelock North and Gisborne. And incorporated will be not one but two regional one-day rally events, the Waitomo Rally on the first day, and the Gisborne Rally on the final one.


Targa New Zealand events are organised by the Ultimate Rally Group with the support of sponsors AndrewSimms.co.nz, Chicane Racewear, Global Security, HW Richardson Group, Invercargill Licensing Trust, NZ Classic Car magazine, Race Brakes, Race4Life Trust, Racetech, TeamTalk, TrackIt, and Writeraze.


For more information go to www.targa.co.nz or check out the Targa NZ page on Facebook.


Prepared by FAST COMPANY on behalf of the Ultimate Rally Group.

To find out more about the various Targa events go to the Targa NZ website at www.targa.co.nz.

To talk to Targa Event Director Peter Martin tel 0-9-298 8322 or 0274 525 643.

To get in touch with event media man Ross MacKay from Fast Company  tel 021 677 919 or e-mail on ross@fastcompany.co.nz